We only have a few precious acres to keep livestock. Twenty-seven acres isn’t a lot of land on the dry prairie of southeast Wyoming, so we needed to do some research to decide what critter would serve our needs the best. We wanted a dairy animal, but we also really like meat. We considered goats, since they’re smaller than cattle and don’t eat as much. And I love goats, I really do but, goat’s milk is a lot harder to separate for making butter, cream products and some cheeses. We also wanted the beef in our freezer each year. Goat meat is good too, but we prefer beef for weekly meals.
After months of consideration and research we decided that Dexters were the right breed for us. Irish Dexter cattle are a great choice for the small acreage homesteader. They’re half the size of most beef cattle breeds, such as Angus, make great milkers and wonderful beef. Mother Earth News agrees! We contacted Vicki and Chris Jones at Mooster’s Meadows and made an appointment to go see their cattle! Chris and Vicki are wonderful hosts and we spent a couple hours in their pastures, talking about Dexters and discussing which animals might be good choices for us. In the end we arranged for little herd to be delivered the following month. We bought one bred heifer, one yearling heifer and two steers.
Gypsy is due with her first calf in March 2015. She has been bred to a beautiful red bull named Hondo, so we’re hoping she’ll have a red heifer, although a bull calf would be dandy too. Since Gypsy will be our first Dexter milk cow, I’m thankful that Gypsy has been in the show ring before. She doesn’t even flinch when I touch her back legs and udder. She’s not very food motivated, she but loves the grooming brush.
Frostbite is a beautiful, red yearling heifer that we are so grateful to be able to purchase. She was born in November 2013 during a cold snap. Chris and Vicki brought her inside to the calf warmer so she wouldn’t get frostbite, hence her name! Read her story here. Frostie has been tested and proven to carry the A2 beta casein protein gene from both her parents. A2 is a specific protein gene that may be desirable in milk for its potential health benefits. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested. Regardless of whether you believe the research claims or not, we’re happy to have an A2/A2 heifer to breed this coming February for a fall calf, meaning year round milk for us. Frostie is also super friendly and thanks again to Vicki has been halter trained. She loves her treats and I’m confident she’ll be a good milker!
Thumper is our little steer. He was born last spring and unfortunately had a bit of a rough start. He was orphaned, and although he was able to get milk from another cow, his growth was delayed a bit. We’re confident that he’ll catch up by the time we’re ready for him to feed us in another year or so.
Burger Boy – his name says it all. He is the steer that will go in our freezer this coming year. We’re keeping it real about where our food comes from. We’re researching how to slaughter and butcher at home with the intention, that time comes, we can give Burger Boy a respectful and efficient end to his life. We have a lot of preparation to do in the meantime, such as preparing a place to slaughter, age and process meat. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to harvest our own animals with forethought and care.
Check back for updates and stories in future blog posts about the Dexters. If you’re interested in getting some Irish Dexters of your own, contact Vicki and Chris Jones of Mooster’s Meadows.